Addressing Objections: The Context Question One More Time
Let’s spend just a little more time on context so that you can be sure that the verses supporting the salvation of all people are not taken out of it. Here is one powerful verse that says that all men will be justified:
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
Let’s look at the context of this verse now.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Again, I ask you to think and consider the context. Isn’t Paul arguing that Christ is like the second Adam, representing all of humanity for righteousness in contrast to sin? Didn’t Adam’s trespass result in the inheritance of a sinful nature for everyone? Is anyone excluded? We all inherited this nature and there is nothing we can do about that. It is this very nature that makes us blind to the truth and makes it difficult to come to know God.
Since God knows this, and is just, He pursues us by grace through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. His “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.” Additionally, it is clear that the effect of sin was powerfully superseded by the effect of grace, for "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." If sin negatively impacts all people, in order for grace to abound more than sin it must logically impact all people as well, but in a more profound way. Otherwise, it would abound less than sin. So, it is clear that justification and life for all people is Paul's message here. There is no contextual reason to argue otherwise.
The only phrase that could potentially be misinterpreted to impose a limit on the grace of God can be found in Romans 5:17 where it mentions "those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness." This phrase, however, in now way delineates that this is some limited number of people who must receive this free gift before death. Instead, the context makes it clear that all will come to "receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness" and thereby "reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ" since His one act of righteousness "leads to justification and life for all men." The oft-repeated biblical truths that every creature will bow, confess, and worship God confirms this reality that everyone will one day become "those who receive." The context of the passage makes it clear that this is exactly Paul’s argument. We are all saved through the free gift of God’s grace, made available through Christ, even while we were still enemies of God. Just as Adam’s sin brought death for everyone, Christ’s atoning sacrifice and resurrection brings “justification and life” for everyone! This concept is confirmed again in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 15:22 (ESV)
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
Is this verse taken out of context? The answer, once again, is no! In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is arguing that there is a resurrection from the dead. Let’s look at the context surrounding 1 Corinthians 15:22 now:
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Again, the context supports the conclusion that God’s salvation and life is given to all, reasoning that the sin and death that entered humanity via Adam will be completely done away with and all things will be subjected to God. The subjection discussed is one of obedience. So, all will come under God in obedience. You can confirm this for yourself here: http://biblehub.com/greek/5293.htm
If anything, the context makes it incredibly clear that God will bring all of humanity to life in Him and obedience under Him.
Let’s look at the context of one last passage and then I will leave you to examine the context of the other passages on your own (otherwise, I’ll never finish writing). The following passage is near the end of Paul’s discussion of the Jews, which pretty much spans three full chapters (from Romans 9 to Romans 11). In his argument, he is explaining how it could be possible that the Jews, who pursued righteousness did not obtain it, but that the Gentiles (who did not) are being grafted into God’s family. Speaking of the Jewish people, Paul says the following:
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
The context demands the understanding that God will have mercy on all. This is the clearly stated purpose for allowing disobedience. God’s purpose in hardening Israel is to bring salvation to the Gentiles. And it is clear that this hardening will not prevent the salvation of the Jews since “all Israel will be saved.”
We see God’s saving purpose throughout Romans 11. Consider Romans 11:11-15. Again, referring to his fellow Jews, Paul says the following:
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
It is undeniable that the thrust of this passage is to explain that God is working, even through the disobedience of mankind, to bring reconciliation to the world. Israel did not stumble in order to fall, but rather as part of a process that would help bring the Gentiles to faith. And Israel will experience full inclusion in salvation, for as this same chapter later tells us, "all Israel will be saved." But not only Israel: this same chapter tells us that God will show mercy to all, that is, all the disobedient in the entire world, the same world that He is reconciling to Himself. There is nothing in this chapter or the preceding chapters that invalidate this clear conclusion. God wants reconciliation and He makes it happen in spite of our disobedience, even using our disobedience to further show His great and awesome mercy! This is profoundly biblical.
It is stated repeatedly throughout Scripture in numerous different ways that God's will is to reconcile everything and everyone to Himself. The only reason people argue against this clearly Scriptural reality is that it doesn’t fit the everlasting hell paradigm. And why should it? The everlasting hell paradigm rests entirely on poor, biased translations of key words, theological traditions fraught with deeply problematic internal contradictions that avoid or distort many beautiful Scriptures, and concepts derived from pagan mythology. It has been propagated for centuries through coercive oppression and violence against anyone who disagreed with the prevailing doctrine. It misrepresents God as hateful and vindictive when He says he is a loving Father who rejoices each time a lost person is found and restored.
When we try to make the doctrine of hell fit with the rest of God's word, it forces a massive reinterpretation of a huge number of very clear biblical passages, in favor of a few speculatively interpreted symbolic ones.
The context police who wish to create doubt about God’s good plan of redemption for all people use the “out of context” accusation as a smoke screen. They have no good evidence for their claim. It sadly appears that many hope that you will just believe them on authority and not actually examine the context for yourself. I encourage you to look at the context of all of the verses that we’ve discussed. If you do, you will see that the accusations that they are being taken out of context are fabrications.
God really does love everyone deeply and He really will save! This is the gospel in which we can rest, with full joy and hope!
Previous Chapter Next Chapter